The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a two-thirds drop in passenger numbers in 2020 compared to a year earlier. However, airlines and airports are counting on the return of traffic at a rate similar to that recorded before the global health crisis, bringing the number of air passengers in the world to ten billion in the middle of this century, compared to 4.5 billion in 2019 ..
The challenge facing the sector is to neutralize its climate impact by 2050, in line with the commitments it has made. To this end, the air transport sector is relying on sustainable fuels and other innovations, including hydrogen aircraft and improved air control.
However, this bet without warning, according to some. The environmental group Greenpeace, in its French branch, warned that “total betting on aviation-friendly options and technical innovations is irresponsible”, urging officials to “commit to the necessary air traffic monitoring”.
This call was supported by aviation sector specialists, who recently met with activists in the French region of Toulouse within the group “Pensons l’aeronautique pour demain” (“Think about the aviation sector of the future”) .
Decrease the level of air navigation
“Since the aviation sector must significantly reduce its carbon emissions by 2035 and there is no technological means to allow the reduction within the required dimensions, we conclude that it is necessary to reduce the level of global air navigation,” the members wrote. of group in. a report published in August 2021..
In early March, the non-governmental organization Transport and Environment also called for travel restrictions, especially business travel, by raising taxes on the sector and including flights outside the European continent within European emission quotas.
Aero Decarbo President Olivier del Boccia says these long-distance emissions are not included in any country’s calculations. The consortium of aeronautical engineers is trying to create a global “carbon budget” that the global aviation sector should not exceed, in relation to its contribution to carbon dioxide emissions, which reached 2.56% in 2018.
He explains that “the temperature in 2050 will not depend on the emissions of that year, but on those released from now until 2050”.
The Aero Decarbo consortium has created several scenarios with the non-governmental organization The Shift Project, depending on the speed of implementation of technological solutions aimed at reducing emissions. Even in the most optimistic scenario, with a large use of alternative fuel sources, this “carbon budget” for the air sector will be exhausted before 2050, according to their calculations.
The union leader says it is “illogical to completely ignore rationalization options”, despite the difficulty of accepting this by sector leaders, who have been accustomed to significant growth over the decades.
Balancing the environment and customer requirements
“We know we will have technology (hydrogen aircraft) in 2035, but at the same time we need to grow to stay active and competitive,” Martin Gauss, president of the Latvian low-cost airline, told AFP. Airbaltic.
Defending an industry that “invests billions to achieve zero emissions,” Gross warns of a “very complex debate” approaching whether politicians should explain to their constituents who has the right to fly and who is denied it. right”.
Paul Chambaretto, assistant professor of strategy and marketing at the Faculty of Commerce in the French city of Montpellier, notes that there has been a “change in the way things are seen two or three years ago” among some professionals in the sector.
“There are more airlines that say their goal is not necessarily to increase the number of passengers, but to improve flight conditions,” he said, focusing on airlines for which there is no alternative.
But it also depends on the acceptance of these efforts by passengers, especially in light of the expected rise in air ticket prices to fund the “green revolution” in the sector.
And Chambaretto asserts that “the biggest question posed, which has no answer so far in France or Europe, relates to the balance between consumer welfare and environmental problems.”
HD / AH (AFP)